Hold internal inquiry to probe judicial misconduct, CJ told

Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat, who was appointed as chief justice last month.

PETALING JAYA: A retired judge has suggested that newly minted Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat carry out an internal inquiry into the claim by a senior serving judge of abuse and interference in the judiciary.

Gopal Sri Ram said Tengku Maimun, after consulting the Court of Appeal president and the chief judges of Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak, could set up a five-member committee, three of whom should be retired judges.

“The committee can inquire into whether there was misconduct by serving or retired judges and report to the chief justice,” he told FMT.

If there were affirmative findings, he said, the chief justice could propose to the prime minister under Article 125 of the Federal Constitution that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong establish a tribunal to try the judges concerned.

He said this would give the affected judges a second opportunity to defend themselves.

Sri Ram, a former Federal Court judge who has returned to practice, said the tribunal could then make recommendations to the king.

“The king could take away their pension and revoke federal honours in public interest if they are guilty of misconduct,” he said.

Sri Ram’s remarks follow the government’s statement last week that it has yet to finalise the details of the proposed royal commission of inquiry (RCI) into the allegations of judicial misconduct.

The Cabinet was said to have approved the RCI three months ago, in the wake of the damning affidavit by Court of Appeal judge Hamid Sultan Abu Backer outlining alleged misconduct by several unidentified judges.

Hamid’s lawyer Haniff Khatri Abdulla, who has been vocal on the issue, asked whether Attorney-General (AG) Tommy Thomas had done his work in advising the government and drafting the terms of reference for setting up the RCI.

De facto law minister Liew Vui Keong also told FMT that the matter rested with the AG.

However, Thomas said he was “not involved” in the proposed RCI and that it was being handled by the ministers concerned.

Sri Ram said an RCI for the judiciary would not be appropriate as it would violate the doctrine of separation of powers.

“The judiciary, being an arm of the government, cannot be subjected to a RCI. It would be like the executive setting up an RCI into Parliament,” he said.

Former Sabah chief minister Yong Teck Lee has also initiated proceedings to stop the government from setting up the RCI.

Yong, who filed the action at the High Court in Kota Kinabalu last month, is seeking a declaration that the decision by the federal government to set up the RCI is unconstitutional and in breach of the principle of separation of powers.

The hearing is scheduled for July 2.